[[Jerusalem Times: Opinion]]
March 19, 2006
This Week in Palestine…behind the News with Hanna Siniora
The Jericho Humiliation
President Mahmoud Abbas received another slap in the face from Israel, the USA and the United Kingdom when they failed to coordinate with him the urgency of the situation in the Jericho prison. Formally on March 8, a letter signed by Jake Walles, the US Consul General and John Jenkins the UK Consul General, was sent to Mahmoud Abbas and possibly a copy to the Israeli government. The letter did not reflect the urgency of the situation, specially the issue of the safety of the monitors-jailers. Jericho was safe and secure, and Palestinian officials treated the letter in a routine fashion, and expected to negotiate the issues. The abrupt departure of the monitors, and immediate siege of the prison by Israeli forces indicated collusion.
The humiliation of the police force stripped naked as they surrendered backlashed in the face of the President who was out of the country in Europe fund raising for the cash starved PA, unable to pay yet the February salaries of its employees.
Hamas emerged more credible, Abbas was stressing, on the new leadership to recognize all previous agreements between the PLO and the government of Israel, now it was shown that Israel does not respect those same agreements and acted unilaterally as it sees fit.
The Olmert government shored up its slippage in the polls and went up from 36 seats to 43. At the Security Council even a mild censuring of the flagrant unilateral act was blocked by the USA & UK.
Abbas and the PA were humiliated, Hamas was vindicated that agreements with Israel are no more than words on paper, and that the PA should respect while Israel can disregard those agreements whenever it suits its policies and that for election purposes it was used to shore up the sagging fortunes of Kadima.
Dismantling the PA
Fateh leaders, Palestinian activists and academics, as a result called for the dismantlement of the PA structure by the PLO headed by Mahmoud Abbas. The policy of the unilateralism pursued by Sharon and now by Olmert made the PA irrelevant and humiliated. The Fateh Central Committee discussed the pros and cons of such action and arrived to no decision. Those who proposed such move felt that Israel and the International Community should take over the administration of the occupied territories and the humanitarian needs of the people. The PA has suffered fatal blows under Fateh and will face a worse scenario under Hamas, while Israel violation of agreements goes unnoticed and without rebukes or sanctions. The time has come to disband the PA in the eyes of many, but the Presidency and Hamas rejected this route.
The Hamas Government
PM designate Ismail Haniyyeh will announce his cabinet this Sunday and most probably it will be an all Hamas cabinet with Mahmoud Zahhar as Foreign Minister and Said Siam as Interior Minister. Fateh and most of the smaller parties have failed to reach a political accord with Hamas. The announcement of the cabinet was delayed for 24 hours to give the three-seat PFLP party in the PLC to give its final answer on joining or not the Hamas cabinet.
On domestic issues, the Hamas agenda of reform and improved services was acceptable to all the parties. The stumbling issues were that Hamas should recognize the PLO as the supreme body and the reference to all PA cabinets, recognize the 1988 Declaration of Independence made by the PNC in Algeria and accept all agreements and commitments made by the PLO with the State of Israel. Hamas refused to adhere to such a political platform, this led Fateh and smaller parties not to join what seems to be a one party (Hamas) government, despite that technocrats from outside the PLC would man the majority of cabinet posts.
Despite the forced arrest of its leader Ahmed Saadat in Jericho, the PFLP seems to be inclined to join the Hamas government. In addition to the other conditions, the PLO and the Declaration of 1988 as a reference point; the PFLP is dead set against a State with provisional borders and want Hamas to accept the call for an international conference that will lead to a two state solution with permanent borders. The PFLP is much closer on political issues with Hamas than Fateh. In the municipal elections, the PFLP allied its representatives with Hamas in order to take control of major West Bank municipalities like Ramallah and Bethlehem. The next 24 hours will demonstrate if Hamas is willing to accommodate the PFLP or go it alone.
Some Members of the Hamas Cabinet- 24 members (10 Gaza + 14 West Bank)
- Ismail Haniyyeh (PLC) Prime Minister
- Dr. Nasser Al-Shaer, Deputy PM
- Dr. Mahmoud Zahhar (PLC), Foreign Minister (or Dr. Ziad Abu Amr)
- Said Siam (PLC), Interior and Civil Affairs Minister
- Dr. Omar Abdul Razeq (PLC), Finance Minister
- Nayef Rajjoub (PLC), Awqaf Minister
- Dr. Jamal Khoudari (PLC), Telecommunication Minister
- Samir Abu Aysheh, Planning Minister
- Mazin Sonokrot, National Economy
- Dr. Yousef Rizka, Information Minister
- Dr. Miriam Saleh, Women Affairs Minister
- Dr. Atah Abu Sabeh, Culture Minister
- Dr. Mohamed Shbeir, Higher Education Minister
- Khalida Jirar (PLC), Prisoners Affairs Ministers (PFLP)
- Tareq Abu Arafeh, Jerusalem Affairs Minister
- Tannous Abu Ayta, Tourism Minister (Christian)
- Dr. Abdul Halim Hanbali, Agriculture Minister
- Dr. Ahmad Khalidi, Justice Minister
- Fakhri Turkoman, Social Welfare Minister
If PFLP Joins Cabinet it will receive Two Additional Posts, Hamas Spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri says this line-up is not final.